WASHINGTON: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS) militant group , has been killed in a US special operation in Syria, confirmed President Donald Trump on Sunday.
Addressing a press conference, the US leader said Baghdadi died after exploding a suicide ´vest’.
Trump thanked Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for help in conducting raid against Baghdadi.
Baghdadi — an Iraqi native believed to be around 48 years old — was rarely seen.
After 2014 he disappeared from sight, only surfacing in a video in April this year with a wiry grey and red beard and an assault rifle at his side, as he encouraged followers to “take revenge” for Daesh members who had been killed.
His reappearance was seen as a reassertion of his leadership of a group that, while it had lost its physical territory, had spread from the Middle East to Asia and Africa and claimed several deadly attacks in Europe.
But Baghdadi remained on the run. The US State Department posted a $25 million reward for information on his whereabouts.
Under Baghdadi, the State Department said, Daesh “has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Middle East, including the brutal murder of numerous civilian hostages from Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States”.
In September, the group released an audio message said to be from Baghdadi praising the operations of Daesh affiliates in other regions.
It also called on scattered Daesh fighters to regroup and try to free thousands of their comrades held in jails and camps by the SDF in northeastern Syria.
Idlib is controlled by former al Qaeda affiliate HTS, and includes the presence of al-Qaeda-linked fighters from the Hurras al-Deen group as well as Daesh cells, according to the Observatory.
“If Baghdadi was indeed in Barisha, it will be interesting to understand how he managed to even get there (through Syria or through Turkey?),” tweeted Michael Horowitz, a Middle East security analyst with the Le Beck consultancy.